Artscape: Feast Columbus

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

At Feast Columbus on Monday, someone walked away with $1,125. And everyone walked away with full bellies and lots to look forward to in Columbus.

The event, organized by art-advocacy group Couchfire Collective and modeled after a similar effort in Brooklyn, was designed to support the kind of arts projects often overlooked by larger grants processes.

Applicants looking for funding for their creative ideas presented proposals to a group of diners. The diners, who had reserved spots for the fixed-price dinner at Haiku, then voted on the proposals and awarded a winner on the spot.

Some of the 16 presenters (several of whom represented a group) were looking for funding for their own artistic endeavors, but most had a public project in mind.

Winner Heather Wirth has big plans for her Columbus Artmobile, a traveling art-instruction program. The idea is that she and her crafty and creative Columbus friends will drive around to primary schools with slashed art budgets and offer free weekly classes.

Wirth plans to use her $1,125 prize (funded by artist application fees and a portion of the dinner price, plus an unexpected $125 donation from the Wexner Center) to buy art supplies and materials and cover travel and advertising costs for the Artmobile. She hopes to begin this fall.

"I was the 12-year-old who was super-shy and didn't raise my hand in class," said Wirth, a floral designer who loves oil painting and attended CCAD. "Exposure to art really brought me out of my shell, and ... when I think about the Artmobile, I think about going back and grabbing the 12-year-old versions of myself and giving them a way to express themselves."

Most presenting artists said they plan to make their projects happen with or without the grant money.

"We're really committed to this idea, and we're still going to put it on," said Tristan Seeger as he explained Jamboraid, a hybrid concert-community-art event his group has planned for Goodale Park in May.

Rhonda Register still plans to document the life of Columbus' homeless for her senior exhibition at Ohio State, even without the video camera she was hoping to buy.

And Scott Neimet intends to put on a two-day outdoor music festival, dubbed Still Ill, in Downtown Columbus this August even though taking home the money would've helped keep down ticket prices.

Couchfire president Adam Brouillette hopes to make Feast Columbus a regular happening. In the meantime, the community can view Monday's proposals and donate to them directly on Couchfire's website, thecouchfire.org, through March 22.

Inaugural Feast diners enjoyed a five-course sushi meal at Haiku. Brouillette credited owner Paul Liu for his ongoing support of the arts scene.

"I am happy to see, in the face of a down economy and a blistering winter, people willing to come spend a bit of money and take part in a creative collaboration," Brouillette told Alive. "The city has become very well-versed in understanding the impact of these types of creative projects."